by Shweta Narayan
My mother speaks her love in quilts
and stained glass; in facets -
which orange for the border do you think, paneer
goes well with mint, you're far too young
to be tired all the -
My watercolor words pool
translucent, stark: just can't
breathe, might be -- pain
into green into grey
too dark a story. Her brother
died last year. Mine
I wish in worried layers, fading
as they dry. I wash out palettes
gone to mud, shut messy dreams
in drawers, echo
precision: send their love
you sound well. I send
orange and purple paintings:
for my breath
or for hers. I don't send stories.
We are amethyst
and mauve, mismatched --
too close. We mix,
clay and water, into mud. Why don't you
write happy stories?
they're not true. Because I sleepless crossed
the ice field with no shadows
and I have no other words.
her tears glittered,
that once - not fair, such pain, he never hurt
anyone, your aunt is shattered. So am I,
she meant. I held her, frightened
to find her frail.) She says that's why
we need color.
We dream in glass and water
She shows me
rooms where palettes line the walls, breathless
with batik; lapis and olive bright as sari
patches; for a peacock, she tells
or I do. We piece together color
contrasts, overlapping stories
I dream to her
in cotton and stained glass, paint
wings edged with fresh-ground turmeric. She feathers in
cinnamon, turns -- winged, spice-fingered, graceful
in batik, caught
fast between possible and perfect.
She frowning says this will be difficult
I'm not sure where
I mix mint
and paneer into leaf-tones
and tell her yes
we'll make mistakes
and pick them out
and patch it together
Shweta Narayan was smelted in India's summer, quenched in the monsoon, wound up on words in Malaysia, and pointed westwards. She surfaced in Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands, and Scotland before settling in California, where she lives on language, veggie tacos, and the internet. The quilt she and her mother are making is Officially In Progress. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in places like Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, and Jabberwocky. She was the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship recipient at the 2007 Clarion workshop. Shweta can be found on the web at shwetanarayan.org.
Photography: adapted from Peacock window, Bhaktapur, by Dey Alexander.